Battery recycling is a recycling activity that aims to reduce the number of batteries being disposed as municipal solid waste. Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals; their dumping has raised concern over risks of soil contamination and water pollution.
Battery recycling by type
Most types of batteries can be recycled. However, some batteries are recycled more readily than others, such as lead-acid automotive batteries (nearly 90% are recycled) and button cells (because of the value and toxicity of their chemicals). Other types, such as alkaline and rechargeable, e.g. nickel–cadmium (Ni-Cd), nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH), lithium-ion (Li-ion) and nickel–zinc (Ni-Zn), can also be recycled.
These batteries include but are not limited to: car batteries, golf cart batteries, UPS batteries, industrial fork-lift batteries, motorcycle batteries, and commercial batteries. These can be regular lead acid, sealed lead acid, gel type, or absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries.These are recycled by grinding them, neutralizing the acid, and separating the polymers from the lead. The recovered materials are used in a variety of applications, including new batteries.
Many cities offer battery recycling services for lead-acid batteries. In some jurisdictions, including US states and Canadian Provinces, a refundable deposit is paid on batteries. This encourages recycling of old batteries instead of abandonment or disposal with household waste. In the United States, about 99% of lead from used batteries is reclaimed for recycling.
Businesses which sell new car batteries may also collect used batteries (and may be required to do so by law) for recycling. Some businesses will accept old batteries on a "walk-in" basis (not in exchange for a new battery). Most battery shops and recycling centres will pay for scrap batteries. This can be a lucrative business, enticing especially to risk-takers because of the wild fluctuations in the value of scrap lead that can occur overnight. When lead prices go up, scrap batteries can become targets for thieves.
Silver oxide batteries
Used most frequently in watches, toys and some medical devices, silver oxide batteries contain a small amount of mercury. In most jurisdictions there exists legislation to regulate the appropriate handling and disposal of silver oxide batteries to reduce discharge of mercury to the environment. Silver oxide batteries can be recycled to recover the mercury.
Battery composition by type
Italics designates button cell types.
Bold designates secondary types.
All figures are percentages; due to rounding they may not add up to exactly 100.
Battery recycling by location
* Figures for Q1 and Q2 2012.
In 2006 the EU passed the Battery Directive of which one of the aims is a higher rate of battery recycling. The EU directive states that at least 25% of all the EU’s used batteries must be collected by 2012, and rising to no less than 45% by 2016, of which, that at least 50% of them must be recycled.
In early 2009 Guernsey took the initiative by setting up the Longue Hougue recycling facility which among other functions offers a "drop off" point for used batteries so they can be recycled off island. The resulting publicity meant that a lot of people complied with the request to dispose of batteries responsibly.
During the period April 2005 – March 2008 the UK non-governmental body WRAP conducted trials of battery recycling methods around the UK. The methods tested were: Kerbside, retail drop-off, community drop-off, postal, and hospital and fire station trials. The kerbside trials collected the most battery mass and were the most well received and understood by the public. The community drop-off containers which were spread around local community areas were also relatively successful in terms of mass of batteries collected. The lowest performing were the hospital and fire service trials (Although these served their purpose very well for specialist battery types like hearing aid and smoke alarm batteries). Retail drop off trials were the second most effective (by volume) method but one of the least well received and used by the public. Both the kerbside and postal trials received the highest awareness and community support.
Household batteries can be recycled in United Kingdom at council recycling sites as well as at some shops and shopping centres e.g. Dixons, Currys, The Link and PC World.
A scheme started in 2008 by a large retail company allowed household batteries to be posted free of charge in envelopes available at their shops. This scheme was cancelled at the request of the Royal Mail because of hazardous industrial battery waste being sent as well as household batteries.
An EU directive on batteries that came into force in 2009 means producers must pay for the collection, treatment and recycling of batteries. This has yet to be ratified into UK law however, so there is currently no real incentive for producers to provide the necessary services.
From 1 February 2010 batteries can be recycled anywhere the Be Positive sign appears. Shops and online retailers that sell more than 32 kilograms of batteries a year must offer facilities to recycle batteries. This is equivalent to one pack of 4 AA batteries a day. Shops which sell this amount must by law provide recycling facilities as of 1 February 2010.
The rechargeable battery industry has formed the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) which operates a free battery recycling program, Call2Recycle, throughout the United States and Canada. The program will provide businesses with prepaid shipping containers for rechargeable batteries of all types while consumers can drop off batteries at numerous participating collection centers. The organization claims that no component of any recycled battery eventually reaches a landfill.
A study estimated battery recycling rates in Canada based on RBRC data. In 2002, it wrote, the collection rate was 3.2%. This implies that 3.2% of rechargeable batteries were recycled, and the rest were thrown in the trash. By 2005, it concluded, the collection rate had risen to 5.6%.
In 2009, Kelleher Environmental updated the study. The update estimates the following. "Collection rate values for the 5 [and] 15 year hoarding assumptions respectively are: 8% to 9% for NiCd batteries; 7% to 8% for NiMH batteries; and 45% to 72% for lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries combined. Collection rates through the [RBRC] program for all end of life small sealed lead acid (SSLA) consumer batteries were estimated at 10% for 5 year and 15 year hoarding assumptions. [...] It should also be stressed that these figures do not take collection of secondary consumer batteries through other sources into account, and actual collection rates are likely higher than these values."
A November 2011 report claims that batteries collected in the United States are increasingly being transported to Mexico for recycling as a result of a widening gap between the strictness of environmental and labor regulations between the two countries.
There is no single national battery recycling law in Japan so the advice given is to follow local and regional statutes and codes in disposal of battery waste. The Battery association of Japan (BAJ) recommends that alkaline, zinc-carbon and lithium primary batteries can be disposed of as normal household waste. The BAJ's stance on button cell and secondary batteries is toward recycling and of increasing national standardisation of procedures for dealing with these types of batteries.
In April 2004 the Japan Portable Rechargeable Battery Recycling Center (JBRC) was created to handle and promote battery recycling throughout Japan. They provide battery recycling containers to shops and other collection points.
- Electronic waste
- WEEE directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment)
- Battery (electricity)
- Rechargeable battery
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